MZB, Morgaine and Me

“For all the Gods are one God,” she said to me then, as she had said many times before, and as I hae said to my own novices many times, and as every priestess who comes after me will say again,” and all the Goddesses are one Goddess, and there is only one Initiator,. And to every man his own truth, and the God within.” — Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Mists of Avalon

I was fourteen when I first encountered MZB’s take on Arthurian legend, and it was those words from the preface, spoken by the woman most people know as Morgan le Fay, but whom we meet as simply Morgaine, that sold me on it.

I tend to buy books more than borrow them from the library because library books always smell musty, or they absorb the smell of cigarette smoke, or they’re just creepy, and this book was no different. It looked interesting, and I already knew I liked the subject so I bought it.

Was I in for a treat! Arthur’s story from a female perspective! Arthur’s story from a perspective that wasn’t just black and white, but many many shades of grey, with tonal nuances that only a woman could write. I was in love.

Only later did I discover that MZB had authored the Darkover series, which I also love. Like the Anne McCaffrey PERN books I’d read the year I was thirteen, Darkover featured a low-tech society, but a much more believeable one – well, if you consider telepathy and breeding with ocean-dwellers ‘believable’ – and unlike AnnieMac MZB’s female characters don’t all become babymaking machines and give up their identities.

In any case, The Mists of Avalon stands as one of my favorite books of all time, especially since it’s satisfyingly LONG. I’d skip the sequels and prequels though – they don’t have the same magic.